How to grow kitchen garden plants

WHEN YOUR ORDER ARRIVES

Open the box right away and examine the contents. Some plants are shipped in pots and others are bareroot. Check the top 1in of soil in potted plants. If it is dry, water gently but thoroughly from above or set the pot in a saucer of water for no more than an hour. The bareroot plants may appear lifeless, but they will reawaken and grow vigorously after planting. Check the packing material around bareroot plants. It should feel damp, but not soggy. If it’s dry, moisten it and pour off the excess water.

Please notify our Customer Service Department immediately at 1-800-411-6159 or email [email protected] if you find a problem upon receipt of your shipment.

WHEN TO PLANT

Bareroot Dormant Plants: Dormant plants are not harmed by spring frosts; the sooner you plant them, the sooner they will settle in and thrive. We recommend planting bareroot Blueberries, Figs, Grapes, Kiwis, Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, and French Tarragon right away using the instructions below.

Pot-grown Herbs: These plants are fresh from the protected environment of a greenhouse. In Zones 8–10, your pot-grown plants can be hardened off right away and then planted using the general “Planting” instructions in the instructions below. In climates colder than Zone 8 (10°F), wait until all danger of frost has passed in the spring before hardening off these plants. For care of pot-grown herbs until it is time to harden them off, see below.

Hardening Off: Even after the last spring frost, near-freezing temperatures and cold spring winds can kill your plants. Your plants may arrive on the most glorious of spring days, but please give your pot-grown plants a chance to become acclimated before planting them in the garden. To acclimate these plants to conditions outdoors, set them in a sheltered, lightly shaded spot, increasing their exposure to sun and wind by several hours each day. At the end of a week (give or take a day), they’ll be ready to go in the ground or into larger pots outside.

IF YOU MUST DELAY PLANTING

If you can’t follow the recommendations above in “When To Plant,” you can wait a bit to plant—provided you store and care for your new arrivals properly.

Bareroot plants can remain in their original packaging for 5–7 days. Keep them in a cool (but not freezing) place out of direct sun. Stand them upright so that new shoots will grow straight up rather than at odd angles. Check the plants for moisture every day. If the packing material around the roots feels dry, add water and pour off the excess. Do not remove the packing material until the moment you’re ready to plant.

If you must wait more than a week to plant a bareroot plant, we recommend that you give it a temporary home, a practice called “heeling in.” Dig a shallow trench in a lightly shaded area, remove and discard the packing material (peat moss may be added to the compost pile), lay the roots in the trench, and cover them with soil. Then water thoroughly. You can also put bareroot plants in a container—a pot, a flat, even a cardboard box will do, so long as water can drain out the bottom—and cover the roots with potting mix. With proper care, heeled-in plants can remain in their temporary quarters indefinitely, but the longer you wait, the more traumatic their relocation will be.

Pot-grown plants may remain in their original pots for some time, provided you keep up with their need for water. Pot-grown plants should be kept indoors until acclimated to outdoor conditions (see “Hardening off” above). As plants grow, however, the need for watering increases. A potted plant left outside for a few hours on a dry, windy day, or indoors in a hot, sunny window can dry out beyond the point of no return. If you must delay planting for more than 2 weeks, we recommend you shift the plants into larger pots.

PLANTING

Pot-grown plants: When the weather is warm and settled (night-time temperatures should remain above 50°F) and you have hardened off your pot-grown plants, then it is time to plant outside. Try to plant on an overcast day or in the late afternoon to minimize stress.

Choose a location in full sun with excellent drainage, then dig a hole that will generously accommodate the plant’s root ball. (If you will be growing your plants in containers, choose a pot that takes into account each plant’s ultimate size, and use a potting mix designed for use in containers.)

Check the moisture in the potting mix around your plant. If it is dry, water thoroughly. To remove a plant from its pot, flip the pot over, tap on its bottom and slip the plant out. Do not pull the plant out by its stem. Loosen the root ball with your fingers and tease the roots apart if they’ve become matted or tangled within the pot.

Set the plants into the hole so that the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding soil. Then push soil back into the hole around the plant and press firmly with your hands to eliminate air pockets and establish good soil contact. A gentle but thorough watering will further settle the soil around the plant. Keep newly transplanted plants moist but not soggy and provide shade (with row cover, cardboard, or lath) for the first few days. Transplant shock is not uncommon, but within a week or less the plants’ roots will regain their ability to provide moisture to the foliage. Remove the shading once plants perk back up.

Bareroot woody plants: Before planting, remove and discard the packaging materials and soak the roots in a pail of water for several hours.

Adding compost, aged manure, or other organic matter to your soil as you prepare the site will help plants get established. Dig a hole wide enough to accommodate the roots and deep enough to allow you to set the crown (the point where the stems of the plant meet the roots) 1in below the surface of the surrounding soil. Place the roots in the planting hole and arrange them like the spokes of a wheel or in whatever fashion appears natural, but take care not to break them, for they are fragile. Holding the crown at the proper level with one hand (see depth given on the plant label), push the soil back into the hole with the other, working soil around the roots to prevent the formation of air pockets. Then firm the soil around the crown with your feet. To catch and hold water and channel it down to the roots, make an 18–24in diameter ring of soil around the base of the plant. Finally, water thoroughly—even if rain appears imminent—to settle the soil.

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